MEMS oscillating magnetic sensor

Designed towards smaller size, lower power consumption, lower cost, and improved performance


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Scientists at the Army Research Laboratory have recently invented a tiny magnetic sensor that minimizes 1/f noise. The patented technology is available via patent license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

Generally, most high sensitivity magnetic sensors used to measure magnetic field strength do not reach their full potential as the common sensing techniques are typically hampered by noise constraints. A primary component of this noise is 1/f noise, also known as flicker noise, which is a signal or process with a frequency spectrum that diminishes at higher frequencies. Pink noise patterns are also referred to as 1/f noise, and are found in semiconductors, music melodies, atomic clocks, and in nature, including the sounds of wind and waterfalls. 1/f noise occurs in almost all electronic devices and results from a variety of effects. For applications where detection of low-frequency phenomena is critical, 1/f noise is a major problem.

In order to mitigate the effects of 1/f noise, ARL researchers have developed an improved MEMS cantilever flux concentrator, which provides a greater dynamic range of motion to allow for larger modulation and more space for a magnetic sensor. The magnetic sensor is associated with a cantilever which is driven by an AC modulation voltage to provide for oscillation of the magnetic sensor. The AC modulation voltage increases the operating frequency to eliminate 1/f-type noise. While conventional flux concentrators are designed to operate within a narrow range of frequencies, the new device can have large amplitudes of motion when any frequency is applied.

The device lends itself to robust manufacturing features. For example, sensitive components such as the magnetic sensor, are not exposed to harsh environments during manufacturing and component complexity is reduced, thereby improving efficiency. This, in turn, simplifies the manufacturing of the embodiments described herein.

The technology will further enable miniature sensors for sensing magnetic fields and have application, space, industrial, biomedical, oceanographic, and environmental settings.

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